Yesterday, I got an email from my boss asking me to take care of some specific things as soon as I got into the office in the morning. I emailed him back: “Sure thing!”
A few minutes later, I got another email: “Why did you reply to my email?”
I was genuinely confused. First, because I’m polite, I try to reply to every email.1 Second, perhaps more importantly, because I always reply to a boss’s request, just to confirm I got it. I want him to know I’ll take care of it.
After all, my main job is to take stuff off his mind. He shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not the conference room is stocked with pens and notepads, or if the writer’s assistant ran off copies of the correct revision. (Not the most recent revision, for reasons that are beyond me, but again, that’s not my job.)
Was I somehow adding to his mental workload by replying? Would he prefer to assume that all is well and understood, if I don’t actually reply? That seems dangerous, to say the least.
Before I figured out how to formulate a response, or even if I should respond, he sent me another email: “I don’t pay you enough to work on the weekend. I just wanted that checklist to be in your inbox Monday morning. You shouldn’t be checking your email on a Sunday. Weekends are for you.”
That’s… actually pretty cool.
In the era of 24/7 communication, a lot of bosses expect you to be on call 24/7, even though they’re not paying you 24/7. And as a dutiful assistant, I try to meet my boss’s expectations, no matter how high or unreasonable.
It’s really easy for someone to take advantage of a situation like that. I can definitely understand the temptation, even if I don’t much appreciate it.
So the fact that my boss won’t take advantage is rather remarkable. It’s unlikely that your boss is quite so remarkable, but you should at least consider what your boundaries are. Are you absolutely off the job when you clock out? Are you checking emails for emergencies? Or are you turning off your phone entirely?
Cutting yourself off might be the healthy choice, but your boss might not appreciate it. You’ll have to weight the pros and cons for yourself, based on your (and your boss’s) situation.
- I don’t always succeed, but I do try.↩